By Stacy Thomas | Photos by Tony Bennett
With just days before Art in Speed Park celebrates its silver anniversary, our writer Stacy Thomas caught up with graphic artist Doreen Barnhart DeHart and her twin, fine artist Jeaneen Barnhart, both of whom return to the festival for the sixth time.
When Doreen Barnhart DeHart first met Art in Speed Park founder Kim Murphy Johnson, they immediately hit it off. “Kim is so incredibly positive and passionate about life and art,” DeHart said. “She was also intrigued by how passionate my sister and I were about art.”
DeHart had previously designed posters for the St. James Art Fair in Louisville, and she and her sister Jeaneen Barnhart have collaborated and been selected as the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Official Poster Artists four times. Murphy Johnson commissioned DeHart to do the 20-year anniversary Art in Speed Park poster, which helped her easily persuade her twin to set up a booth that year. “The environment is beautiful – tucked away in the park,” DeHart said. “We fell in love with it and have been there every year since. It is a really easy show to go to and be a part of. It is not intimidating or overcrowded.”
For the 25th anniversary of Art in Speed Park, which begins August 29, DeHart was commissioned again to create the official poster. She started working on the design before winter and admits that initially the concept – capturing the way it feels when you go to the art show – seemed unattainable. “I wanted the focus to be on the artists, not me or my sister. That would have been the easy way out,” DeHart said.
The end result includes the Speed Park pavilion, which is in the middle of the festival, combined with images of actual trees from the park. Art then fills the trees in the shapes of various leaves, creating a beautiful balance of art and nature. “I used as many different artists works as I could, as many as I could display,” DeHart said. “I tried to get as many different textures and mediums. I wish I could fit more. … I don’t know how I did it. In the end, I am happy with how the poster turned out. Thank God for good printers!”
Although her sister initially urged Barnhart to take part in the festival several years ago, passion is what keeps her coming back each year. “This is the only art festival I do. I am at my happiest that weekend,” she said. At Art in Speed Park, she gets a chance to meet and connect with the people who buy her work. “I try new things at the festival. Last year I printed art on metal. This year I printed some of my sexy female nudes on t-shirts for wearable art.” She also uses the festival as an opportunity to clean out her studio, offering unframed sketches, rough studies and raw originals – upwards of 200 original pieces of art – for 70 percent off.
Barnhart recently returned from a trip to visit The Polo Bar, famed designer Ralph Lauren’s first restaurant in New York City. “Ralph Lauren is a collector of my paintings. There are two of my originals in his new restaurant,” Jeaneen said. “I had my photo taken with the pieces. … We had dinner and drinks. … It was an amazing experience.”
So, too, is Art in Speed Park for Barnhart. “I make art that is accessible to all people.”